In today’s Times, Harvey Araton wrote a meandering column on the fate of old Yankee Stadium. Notable in his piece is the news that the city won’t get around to completing the destruction of the old cathedral until spring 2010, and he plays off of this painfully slow timetable.
The Mayor’s Office explained the slow pace of deconstruction to Araton:
PART I “The primary reason Yankee Stadium has not started demolition is that the new stadium and its offices have just now become available for occupancy.” But if New York schoolchildren can learn in trailers when there is a shortage of building space, why couldn’t the Yankees have conducted business in a temporary shelter for a few short months to expedite the demolition process?
PART II “The demolition of Yankee Stadium, with a lot of adjacent construction, utility work and proximity to the elevated subway structure, requires a complicated public procurement process.” But if demolition is so complicated, how has Shea Stadium — not as cramped but similarly flanked by a new stadium and an elevated subway — been largely flattened, piece by piece, since October, with the job expected to be completed next month?
Hogi’s point about construction priorities is one that cannot be hammered home enough. When it is in the baseball team’s interest to demolish a stadium so there will be enough parking by opening day, the old ballpark can’t come down soon enough. When the existing stadium site has been designated for replacement park baseball fields, the community can wait — in the case of Heritage Field on the existing old Stadium site, until at least fall 2011, or three years after the last major league pitch.
As I predicted when the bond issue reached its conclusion, the parkland replacement problems are going to emerge to the forefront of stories surrounding the stadium. And it is a problem because the South Bronx — the nation’s poorest Congressional district — needs its parkland.
“That’s going take at least two years because the city’s priority is the Yankees, not the neighborhood,” Joyce Hogi, a member of the Community Board 4 parks committee, said to Araton.
There’s a lot of cynicism in Araton’s article, but there’s a lot of truth to it too. This time, though, the problem falls on the shoulders of the city. As much as the baseball traditionalist in me doesn’t want to see Yankee Stadium ever destroyed, the city must make good on its promise to replace the parks lost to the new Stadium. The Macombs Dam Park closed in Augusth 2006. It’s going to take five years to replace that space, and the South Bronx will suffer because of it.